Trucker awarded $317K after Mounties Tasered him twice inside cab
A long-haul truck driver from Surrey, B.C., who sued the province after two officers punched and Tasered him inside his semi-trailer nearly seven years ago has been awarded more than $300,000 in damages.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge found the constables used more force than necessary when they shocked Bradley Degen, 52, through the broken window of his truck two times outside a lumberyard in the city in 2016.
"I am aware of the need for police to react quickly to situations. However, the level of force used in this circumstance was, in my view, disproportionate to the perceived threat," said Justice David Crossin in a ruling posted online Tuesday.
While the ruling was a success for Degen after a three-week trial examining police use of force, the judge declined to award punitive damages — or an extra penalty strictly to punish the officers. Crossin said the Taser wasn't necessary, but the officers' actions were not "so malicious, oppressive and high-handed" to meet the punitive bar.
"The officers at the time of this event were relatively inexperienced. Neither officer had even deployed their respective Tasers before this incident. The officers displayed a lack of judgment, but their conduct was not such that can be characterized as offending the court's sense of decency," the judge said.
Trucker asleep in his cab when police arrived
During the trial, court heard Degen arrived after closing to deliver a load of lumber to a wood warehouse on July 25, 2016. He decided to sleep in the truck's sleeping quarters, idling the engine so he could run the air conditioner in the summer heat.
Degen said he fell asleep in his underwear and only got out of the truck once to stretch and relieve himself on the street around 9:30 p.m.
Police were called to the neighbourhood after a resident said his wife had seen someone, potentially drunk, stumbling and urinating around a truck parked in the yard.
The responding officers, constables Perkins and Spoljar, pounded on both of the cab's doors and shone a flashlight in Degen's face to wake him up some time after 10 p.m. Degen said he turned down the truck's idle and lowered his window so he could hear the officers, who identified themselves and told him he was being investigated for potential impairment.
Degen said he told the officers they had "the wrong guy" and announced he was "going back to bed."
"He also conceded that he possibly then told the officer or officers to f--k off," Crossin noted.
The officers and Degen testified differently as to what happened next, but the judge said it was clear Degen "remained in his locked vehicle, and the officers were frustrated in their attempts to engage with the plaintiff."
The judgment said Degen rolled up his window after officers told him he was under arrest for obstruction of justice. Const. Spoljar broke the glass and punched Degen in the jaw because he believed the driver was about to assault him.
After Degen punched back, both officers Tasered him.
Degen told the court he suffered a number of injuries, including a mild traumatic brain injury and numerous psychological and cognitive issues like depression, "impaired cognition," as well as difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Crossin said many of his symptoms weren't supposed by the evidence and noted Degen wasn't a "particularly reliable witness" but acknowledged the arrest's effect on his life.
"I am not suggesting that the plaintiff did not suffer injuries following the incident ... I find he did suffer consequences."
Crossin dismissed Degen's accusations of battery, malicious prosecution, and negligence during the investigation.